My Father Decried Michael Pearl’s Softness: Warbler’s Story
Also by Warbler on Homeschoolers Anonymous: “Finding A Reason To Wake Up.”
Trigger warning for To Break Down a Child series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.
My parents swore by To Train Up a Child. Any new parents that they met and invited over to the house were shown the book, read passages and encouraged to purchase a copy of their own.
First-time-obedience and spankings were commonplace in our home.
My dad would spank us with his hand, but my mom’s hands were more fragile and after breaking one too many blood-vessels in her hands on our bottoms, she graduated to a paint-stirrer. When those continued to brake, she had a paint-stirrer custom made out of a 2-by-4 and varnished.
It was solid wood and it hurt intensely.
We got 5 spanks automatically for any infringement of the rules or act of disobedience, or in my case: lies. Any “rebellion” after that would get more spanks in 5-spank ‘increments’ (for example: crying too much after being spanked, not giving the correct reason as to why we were spanked, refusing to hug afterwards, rolling eyes [this happened to me especially], or anything else that was considered “unbroken”).
We were taken to another room (sometimes the room had to be emptied, sometimes the spanking were “saved” if we were out or if company came over and all rooms were occupied) and the door was closed. With the parent sitting we were bent over their knees (clothing on generally, except for once or twice when my skirt was thick material and prevented the blows from causing “sufficient” pain) and spanked the expected, pre-ordained amount of times. We were then stood up, allowed to sniffle for a couple seconds, and then expected to state the reasons for which we were being spanked in parent-approved terms.
Mom: Now, why did you get spanked?
Me: I stole crackers/was rebellious/didn’t obey you when you said to take out the compost/lied about cheating on my math.
Then, we were given a hug/forced to hug the parent that had just spanked us.
We were regaled with how the spanking was a disappointment to them/it hurt them more than it hurt us/we could avoid spankings by obeying/how much they loved us and wanted us to be better children.
Around the age of 11 for me (older for my brother) the spanking stopped because I was too heavy to be laid over their knees. They figured that more creative punishments were needed to change my heart because the spankings were not working. The paddle mysteriously disappeared at one point and never ended up being replaced, the younger siblings getting hand-spanked or paint-stirrer spanked occasionally. For some reason when we older children graduated out of spanking the younger children were not spanked as often either. Usually we elder ones were held responsible for some of their faults, but (extra) chores were given out as the answer for offenses.
I read To Train Up a Child multiple times growing up because it was out/laying around, it was used as a defense/proof-text for my parents actions, and because it was required reading at one point for school. My parents also signed up for their newsletter/magazine and my mother kept it on hand for reading material for us children as well.
I remember when the “Cloistered Homeschooling Syndrome” articles came out and my father decried Michael Pearl as “becoming soft” about homeschooling issues.
My older sister and I read them surreptitiously and found a small glimmer of hope through them (whispering between ourselves that we thought he was right–daring to disagree with our authority figure). My parents were still preaching Pearl as late as 2010 to the latest of their “converts.” I learned OBEDIENCE or PAIN, CONFORMITY or BEATINGS.
And when my sister and I ran away in the middle of the night, my parents could not imagine why they did not see it coming.